Brief notes on the trip, state by state, with sights, places, and photographs.
Michigan, part 2
As we drove north in Michigan, we continued on US-23 which followed much of the lake shoreline. While the sights and scenes on this route in southern Michigan were not that exciting, as we drove further north we passed through lakeside communities. Stretches of houses along the lakeshore entertained us with their clever and unique yard signs, whether stating the name of the property or of the family. We did not pass many chain hotels, but rather many motor courts or cabins or small motels.
Aside from just seeing Michigan, our main destination was Mackinac Island. The island is known as the jewel of Michigan and is famous for its Victorian era architecture, the Grand Hotel (with the longest front porch in the world), and not allowing cars since the early 20th century. And while a round trip ferry ride for two was about half of our daily budget, we really wanted to visit Mackinac Island.
The ferry ride is under 20 minutes (which begs the question of why is it so expensive?) and the approach to the island is gorgeous. Mackinac Island is in Lake Huron and on the other side of the Mackinac Straits and the Mackinac “Mighty Mac” Bridge is Lake Michigan. The water is clear and all shades of blue/green. Lucky for us, the clouds dissipated and the sun shined brightly as soon as we arrived on the ferry.
Arriving at Mackinac Island is a bit overwhelming since the ferry docks are right next to the main strip. In other words we were immediately amidst hundreds of bicycles and pedestrians and many carriages pulled by horses. Bicycle rentals were not cheap either, but we decided it was the best way to tour the island. An eight mile bike path is paved around the perimeter of the island. The two hour bike rental for two bikes was $18 and well worth it. Everyone was on a bicycle. The path takes riders or walkers through the town and then through the state park, where visitors can see the natural beauty and some wildlife of the island. The bike path is actually a Michigan Highway (M-185).
The main shopping strip of town is chock full of stores that sell typical tourist junk – anything that has “Mackinac Island” written on it. And there are many restaurants and fudge shops. We didn’t spend too much time on the main street because the sidewalks were very crowded, but we did have some fudge and candy.
While on our bike ride we found the Grand Hotel. It is beautiful and has one of the best views on the island; however, we were disappointed to find that unless you are a guest of the hotel you cannot even walk in front of it. If you want to enter the hotel or walk on the porch it costs $10 per person. Also, there was a sign proclaiming that after 6pm men must wear suits and women cannot wear slacks. We opted for just a few pictures.
After a while we tired of the tourist mess, so we decided to go walking in the middle of the island (mostly uphill) past some beautiful house and through the state park. This was a fabulous way to spend our afternoon. We strolled in the shade and on trails, saw only a few people, and gazed at Lake Superior. Had we not walked away from the crowds we would have missed out on the true beauty of Mackinac Island because while it’s known for its architecture and no-cars, it is just as much a haven for naturalists.
Mackinac Island was worth the trip, though the expense (we were over budget that day) would prevent us from returning anytime soon. With all of the crowds, it took away from what we expected about the island, but the views of and from the island provide good memories. The chance to be someplace in the United States without cars and their pollution is rare, and the trip to Mackinac Island is worth that experience. Horses and carriages transport guests to the hotels. Packages are delivered by carriages. Painters carry their supplies on bicycles. It is a completely different world in some respects. These pictures cannot do the entire island justice, but hopefully they give you a glimpse of Mackinac Island.